Monday, December 20

My Favorite Things: Shawn Henderson

This past year I meet interior and furniture designer Shawn Henderson via the wonderful world of Twitter. As it turns out, we have several mutual friends and early this month they arranged a dinner for us to finally meet in person. Shawn's understanding of scale, combined with a casual air of sophistication, forms the core of his work and designs. If you are in NYC you can find Shawn’s furniture collection at ALT for LIVING.

I will have a full profile on Shawn in early 2011. He really is All the Best!

Favorite gift to give this year?
Hermes scented drawer liners

Favorite way to celebrate the holidays?
Relaxing by the fire with family & friends at our house in upstate New York

Favorite current book?
The distant hours by Kate Morton

Favorite holiday song
Little drummer boy (sung by anyone!)

Favorite party clothes?
My standard uniform as of late: dark denim jeans, cashmere sweater and tweed jacket

Favorite cookie?
Impossible to choose, but I love peanut butter with Hershey kiss on top (right out of the oven)

Favorite place to shop?
Hudson, New York

Favorite movie to watch again and again?
At this time of year Love Actually. Pride and Prejudice year round.

Favorite holiday memory?
Going to my grandmother's house on Christmas morning with my entire extended family.

Favorite charity
The Point Foundation

IN BED WITH Malcolm James Kutner

This week you can visit the SFERRA website to learn more about Malcolm James Kutner. Learn what SFERRA linens he fantasizes having made into pajamas and his get his thoughts on setting the perfect bed.

Saturday, December 18

Ike Kligerman Barkley Houses

'John Ike, Thomas Kligerman, and Joel Barkley speak architectural languages of the past with a sure command of grammar and syntax and a rich vocabulary of form and detail. As designers they build upon what went before to extend the trajectory of architecture.'
—Robert A. M. Stern

If you are looking for any last minute gift ideas than look no further than Ike Kligerman Barkley Houses. One of the most diverse and beautiful tomes currently on the bookshelf, you will want a copy for yourself as well.

The firm incorporates elements from the great eras and the great practitioners of architecture, and the twenty-one houses and apartments featured in the book represent the remarkable breadth of the practice. In addition to creating stunning environments, Joel, Thomas and John are all top-notch men. A must for the library!

Friday, December 17

IN BED WITH Amanda Nisbet

This week you can visit the SFERRA website to learn more about Amanda Nisbet, her preferred SFERRA linens and her thoughts on everything from bedroom 'must haves' to seasonal essentials.

Thursday, December 16

A Brian Patrick Flynn Christmas

Few are more clever or creative than my friend Brian Patrick Flynn—aka Décor Demon. As I have mentioned before, Brian has a high-energy style and wicked sense of humor that is second to none—qualities that always come across in his writings and photos.

So, when Brian sent me an email account of his holiday decorating, I could not resist sharing our conversation. Hopefully it will serve as inspiration should you need any at this stage in the holiday game!

Brian Wrote:
"Although I'm a quasi-professional decorator, my own home is often neglected when it comes to seasonal decor. The idea of conceptualizing something with a shelf life of 30 days seems like more work than it's worth; however, I'll get in the yuletide spirit when designing holiday looks for others---if cold, hard, Christmas cash is involved. Otherwise, prying me off the sofa from Real Housewives marathons to stick a glittery star made of Styrofoam on a plastic tree ain't gonna happen.

Or at least that's what I thought. This year, a few days after Thanksgiving, I woke up early with the urge to produce and star in my own Christmas challenge---the audience being my dogs and my significant other. Could I conceptualize, then execute an outside-the-box holiday aesthetic void of green, red, silver and yellow-gold in just a few hours, shopping only for discount sale items at mega-retailers such as Target? Um, maybe? Four hours and 12 boxes of violet accessories later, I was out the door and back again.

By 5:30pm, everything was in place. For under $225, I'd put together a violet, brown, bronze and white wonderland made up of budget-friendly items ranging from a $39 white Christmas tree to $.99 ornaments. Sure, I pulled it off but the Ebenezer Scrooge in me can't help focusing on the fact that it all has to be taken down, packed up and put away in just a few weeks. Bah Humbug."

Despite Brian's Bah Humbug approach (I lean more toward the Clark Griswold school of Christmas)...I still think he is the bee's knees.

For more photos visit's Design Happens and for the perfect ‘brown’ accompaniment, Brian suggests a Southern Living recipe for Hot Chocolate With Almond Liqueur.

Wednesday, December 15

Tartanscot Holiday Decorating Contest

Time is running out for the Tartanscot Holiday Decorating Contest. Send your photos now. There are three categories that you can enter :

1)  Christmas Tree
2)  Dining Room
3)  Fireplace Mantel

How to do it:

1)  Decorate your home. 
2)  Take digital photos.
3)  Email your images (along with your name and address) to "" 

Good Luck!


Tuesday, December 14

My Favorite Things: Newell Turner

I have been intrigued by Newell Turner since following his personal account, documented online for House Beautiful, of building a 1,200-square-foot house in New York's Catskills Mountains from scratch. In his writings Newell always comes across as astute, yet well grounded. It only makes sense that he would land the position as the new House Beautiful Editor-in-Chief.

After having lunch with Newell last week it’s easy to see why he is so well liked and respected in the industry. He is knowledgeable, honest and charming.

Newell has been quoted as saying, “interior designers are worth every penny. In the long run, they can save you lots of money by helping to prevent mistakes. Designers are masters at conceiving spaces and arranging furniture in rooms. It sounds like a simple thing to do, but it’s not.” While many share a similar belief when it comes to the interior design industry, few could say it so clearly and succinctly.

And despite 25 years of experience in the design business, Newell is the first to tell you that he's no pro when it comes to decorating. "I'm not a designer, I'm an editor," he says, “I have to test and experiment and make mistakes just like everyone else.” Great advice to live by.

Favorite gift to give this year?
Found T-shirts printed with odd or unexpected messages and images.

Favorite way to celebrate the holidays?
With family in Mississippi.

Favorite current book?
I just read Dead End Gene Pool by Wendy Burden.

Favorite holiday song?
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas sung by Judy Garland.

Favorite party clothes?
A knit navy blazer. It works with just about everything and parties up or down.

Favorite cookie?
Peanut butter

Favorite place to shop?
Small neighborhood stores that have a strong sense of place and owners’ with an original eye.

Favorite movie to watch again and again?
The Cockettes

Favorite holiday memory?
Any Christmas Eve after mass.

Favorite charity?
The Smile Train

Profile by Ronda Carman

Tuesday, December 7

IN BED WITH Campion Platt

This week you can visit the SFERRA website to learn more about Campion Platt, his preferred SFERRA linens and his thoughts on everything from bedroom 'must haves' to the perfect breakfast in bed.

Monday, December 6

My Favorite Things: Malcolm James Kutner

Sakowitz; Houston, Texas 1976

This is the third 'My Favorite Things' series, and it's one that I look forward to posting all season long. Not only is it one of my very favorite song titles (I LOVE the John Coltrane version), but also, I love knowing what others cherish and hold dear, especially at this time of the year. This year I thought it seemed appropriate to start with one of my very favorite people.

Favorite gift to give this year?
I am currently smitten by anything from De Vera on Crosby Street right here in NYC.

Favorite way to celebrate the holidays?
All of the amazing Christmas parties in New York; a private Christian celebration; carols and eggnog around the fire with family on Christmas Eve. And then Belize for New Year’s.

Favorite current book
Same at Christmas as any time of year: Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet.

Favorite holiday song?
Carol Of The Bells by The Bird And The Bee.

Favorite party clothes?
Blackwatch trousers and a black velvet jacket.

Favorite cookie?
It has to be snickerdoodles. A dozen, all in a row.

Favorite place to shop?
Fortuny in the D&D Building in NYC. The journals and the umbrellas are my signature gifts this year.

Favorite movie to watch again and again
It’s a toss up between The Holiday and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Favorite holiday memory?
Spending time at The River House in Sweeny (Texas not NYC) as a kid.

Favorite charity?
The Child Mind Institute

Profile by Ronda Carman

Friday, December 3

David Patrick Columbia

Yesterday I had the pleasure of having lunch at Michael’s with New York luminary David Patrick Columbia, founder of New York Social Diary. Hardly a person passed by our table without stopping to shake his hand or say hello. His chronicling of New York and society began in 1993 as a monthly society column in Quest magazine. Then in 2000 David decided to become independent and take his project online. Each day, with the help of his business partner, Jeffrey Hirsch, David documents society with his unique personal reflection.

NYSD was a huge source of inspiration to me when I started All the Best four years ago. After a long lunch, book shopping at Archivia and much talk about the online world, I realize that it was very much like meeting a long lost friend. What a thrill to read his account of our lunch this morning. Thanks David.

Photo: New York Times

Wednesday, December 1

IN BED WITH Darryl Carter

For the past few months I have been working on a very exciting project with SFERRA called IN BED WITH...

Each week you can visit the SFERRA website to learn more about your favorite designers and their preferred SFERRA linens. They will be sharing their thoughts on everything from bedroom 'must haves' to how to set the perfect bed.

In the coming weeks and months you will hear from Barry Dixon, Hutton Wilkinson, Amanda Nisbet, Campion Platt, Malcolm James Kutner, Tammy Connor, Brad Ford, Jan Showers, Eric Cohler, Amy Lau and Robert Passal...stay tuned!

Sunday, November 28

Soup on Sunday: Southwest Pumpkin Soup

If you are cooked out or have a few spare cans of pumpkin, this is the soup for you. Not only is it good, but it's dead easy. Enjoy.

3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup half and half
2 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro
Avocado slices
Sour cream
Toasted pumpkin seeds

Bring vegetable stock and whipping cream to boil in heavy medium pot. Whisk in canned pumpkin, cumin, chili powder, coriander and nutmeg. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until soup thickens slightly and flavors blend, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish each serving with cheddar cheese, cilantro, avocado slices, sour cream, toasted pumpkin seeds and serve.

Saturday, November 27

Shopping on Saturday: The Loaded Trunk

I love shopping online year round, but at this time of year I appreciate it even more. Don't get my wrong, I do enjoy a bit of the holiday hustle and bustle. Yet, on a cold snowy day, few things beat curling up by the fire with a laptop and shopping for those on your list.

If you have yet to shop The Loaded Trunk, an online shop that stocks global goodies, you are in for a treat. Here are just a few of my favorite items:

Wood, Sterling and Shell Serving Spoon from Bali
Pewter Crocodile Stapler from Thailand
Bangle Bracelets
Earrings from Istanbul
Hammered Bronze Gold Leaf Bowl

Friday, November 19

Profile: Bunny Williams

I almost feel as if Bunny Williams needs no introduction, nor can I properly do one justice. For more than 40 years Bunny has focused on design that embraces gracious living. She spent the first twenty-two years of her career with the iconic decorating institution Parish-Hadley, before launching her own firm in 1988.

Bunny designs rooms in which dogs are welcome on the furniture, and you long to put your feet up with a good book. Her own book, An Affair with a House, showcasing her meandering Greek revival Connecticut farmhouse, is my go to book when I am in search of inspiration. Although her new book, Bunny Williams' Scrapbook for Living, just might have me reconsidering.

I still think Stephen Drucker said it best when he wrote, “She [Bunny] is one of the great decorators in the classical tradition that goes back to the roots of the profession. She lives the life of her clients; she understands how a house runs and what makes a room work; and her rooms are not meant to be ends in themselves, but instead a comfortable, sophisticated background for a rich, full life.”

How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is about creating a comfortable welcoming house for my family and friends. And of course our dogs. My tastes are totally eclectic and I love mixing old and new pieces, and pieces with different silhouettes and pedigrees. I am passionate about architecture and getting the bones of a space correct.

Scale is also something I think most people have trouble understanding. It is vital to get the scale and proportions right when creating a room and selecting the furnishings. I learned so much from both Sister Parish and Albert Hadley whom I worked for before I started my own business. My style is definitely a combination of their fabulous eyes for design plus so many influences from my travels and passion for the decorative arts.

What is your most prized possession?
A pair of paintings of our dogs Lucy and Elizabeth by Henry Koehler that hang on the wall in our house in Connecticut.

What is your idea of earthly happiness
Everyone has a home to call their own.

What is your favorite luxury in life?
Fabulous sheets.

What is the one thing in life you cannot live without?
A garden.

What inspires your creativity and designs
Travel, books, and museums.

Who are your style icons?
Pauline de Rothschild, Syrie Maugham, and Frances Elkins

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project
I would love to work on a garden project with the superb Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf.

What books are currently on your bedside table?
Memoirs of the Duchess of Devonshire, and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Past or present who has most influenced your direction in life?
My Mother and Sister Parish.

Photo of Bunny by Miguel Flores-Vianna

Thursday, November 18

Thank You New York Social Diary

A huge thank you to David Patrick Columbia for recently asking me to become a contributor to New York Social Diary. I have been reading the online version of NYSD since it launched in September of 2000. David's quest for the best and tireless focus on interesting people was one of the inspirations in founding All the Best four years ago. As you can imagine, it is quite an honor to now write for someone I have long admired.

You can read a more detailed account of my visit to La Castellane and Picnics in Provence on today's NYSD. Now I have to start dreaming of the next place to visit...

Tuesday, November 16

Green Interior Design by Lori Dennis

I am so excited about the lovely Lori Dennis' new book Green Interior Design. Lori's desire to be part of the solution to waste and pollution in the interior design and construction fields led her to write a wonderful "manual" for anyone wishing to create green interiors.

Every aspect of residential interior design–furniture and accessories, window treatments, fabrics, surface materials, appliances and plumbing fixtures, plants, and more–is discussed from a green perspective in terms of both avoiding pollution and protecting the occupants’ health.

I just adore Lori and her commitment to the environment. I am also very honored that my thoughts on Lori and her brilliant book are included on the back cover. Thank you Lori!

Sunday, November 14

Daniel de la Falaise's Autumn Cauliflower Parsley Soup

Lucky me, lucky you. My wildly talented friend Daniel de la Falaise has promised to “bombard” me with soups recipes. You might remember his recipe for Carrot Tarragon Soup that I posted in September—so delicious.

What I love about Daniel is that he not only has a zeal for cooking, but also insists on doing it well and getting it right, while keeping it simple. You can get a sense for his passion when you read through his recipes. Even if you don’t cook, it’s easy to appreciate his dedication to freshness and seasonally appropriate creations. Always the best.

homemade chicken broth
a young leek (whites for the soup and leaves to infuse broth)
a generous bunch young autumn parsley ( first cut of parsley planted in August/ September)
a fleshy chili, for flavor not taste
a generous head of bay in bud
a young cauliflower

To create a light broth for the base of soup use outer leaves of the leek, stalks of parsley, bay and a hint of chilli. Bring to a simmer, cover. Allow broth to stand off the heat to infuse. Whilst the stock rests off the heat, the fresh herbs will gently continue to cook in the carefully accumulated temperature. Keep covered with a lid.

Mandolin the cauliflower, aspiring to paper thin proportions, and finely chop the leek. Heat olive in a pan and add bay, parsley stalks and chili to infuse the oil. Add a knob of butter to carry the flavor of the herbs and infuse the cooking fat some more.

Remove the herbs squeezing them for all they yield. Add cauliflower and toast it in the herb infused cooking fat. Add the leek. Toast some more; taste and season

Once translucent de-glaze the whole with a little broth so as to make an emulsion between the cooking fat and the essence extracted from the vegetables and the broth.

Add the remaining broth (less for a thicker soup and visa versa) and bring to a simmer. Add fresh bay, parsley and cover. Stand the pan off the heat to rest. It will infuse in its accumulated temperature.

Resist the urge to meddle for a good twenty minutes. As the soup is off the heat nothing bad can happen. It is merely a question of embracing a sensory awareness of the quality of flavour one aspires to. Once achieved remove the herbs squeezing them for all they yield.

Spoon the vegetables into a liquidiser then pour in the broth. Liquidize. Add an abundance of parsley leaf and olive oil for texture. Return the finished soup to the heat and gently bring up the temperature. Never boil or chlorophyl will oxidise—greens turn grey and delicate flavours turn to bitter tastes.

Serve immediately in hot soup plates. Garnish with a young sprig or two of parsley and a slug of good olive oil.

Wednesday, November 10

A Day with Nicky Haslam

Portrait by Vanessa Garwood

Today I had the great pleasure of spending an afternoon with none other than Nicky Haslam and his amazing creative director Colette van den Thillart. How lucky can a girl get?

Nicky's legacy, talent and influence as one of Britain’s ultimate interior designers is undeniable. Not to mention, in his spare time, he is an actor, artist, cabaret singer, book reviewer, art editor, memoirist, literary editor and he features on both Vanity Fair and GQ’s best-dressed lists!

But the best thing about Nicky is, well, him...he is a genuinely nice person and fun conversationalist. All in all it was a near perfect day. Thank you Nicky. Below are a few photos that I snapped in his office. Full profile to come.

And a very special thank you to my friend Susan Moolman for making the introduction!

I love Colette's chosen "Design Family"

Tuesday, November 9

Off to London

I will be in London for the next two days. I hope to have a few photos to share later this week. I am bursting to tell you about my lunch date for tomorrow...but I don't want to jinx it. I'll keep you posted.

Also, THANK YOU for sharing all of the soup recipes. I can't wait to make my way through the links.

Sunday, November 7

What is YOUR Favorite Soup?

I am under so many deadlines at the moments that I don't even have time to make soup today. That said, I would love to hear from all of you. Tell me your favorite kind of soup or leave a link in the comment section to your favorite recipe. I am always on the lookout for a good soup.
All the best,

Saturday, November 6

Save the Date: Design Bloggers Conference

click image to enlarge

Join interior design bloggers, new media innovators, and interior design industry leaders for the inaugural Design Bloggers Conference in LA - February 28 - March 2, 2011.

This premier two-day conference for new media and the interior design industry offers a unique opportunity to learn about and discuss the intersection of interior design with the world of new media including blogging, social media, and more.

I will be speaking along with Jan Showers, Barclay Butera, Tobi Fairley, Grace Bonney, Tracy Porter, Cassandra LaValle, Paloma Contreras, Stacy Kunstel, Anne Sage and Clinton Smith.

Register now and qualify for the Early Registration fee of $395. After January 16, 2011 the registration fee will increase to $495.

Friday, November 5

Ralph Lauren + SFERRA

Ralph Lauren Home announced last night that it has signed on with luxury linen company SFERRA. This new licensing agreement with SFERRA will take Ralph Lauren into the hotel, resort and spa market. The Ralph Lauren line will also be available to the company's own home stores, specialty store and high-end department stores.

SFERRA, a 120-year-old company, has expanded under president and principle Paul Hooker. "The opportunity to work with such a world renowned leader of fashion and exceptional taste is a natural for SFERRA," said Hooker in announcing the deal.

"We are thrilled to partner with SFERRA," said Frank Guzzetta, president of Ralph Lauren Home, "a world class company that has a genuine understanding of our brand and the luxury market."
 - Text from Home Textiles Today.

As the Brand Ambassador for SFERRA I could not be more delighted to see two fabulous companies coming together!

Monday, November 1

Debra Shriver: Stealing Magnolias

I love that I just never know who is reading my blog or from where the next email might arrive. Certainly it keeps me on my toes. Most recently I received a lovely email from Sue-Jean Chun telling me of her dear friend Debra Shriver’s new book Stealing Magnolias: Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard.

As one who loves the city of New Orleans, I could not wait to get my hands on a copy after seeing the images. As luck would have it, I was traveling to NYC where Debra is based and had a chance to see it in person.

In addition to authoring Stealing Magnolias, Debra is Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Hearst. I had the privilege of spending a wonderful morning with Deb in her stunning office at the Hearst Tower earlier in October.

Stealing Magnolias is a beautifully written, and illustrated, love letter to New Orleans, her newly adopted city. Immediately after Hurricane Katrina Deb bought a town house in the French Quarter and began renovating and restoring the house to its original state. During the process she became friends with many of the artisans, decorators and designers in the city.

Through Deb’s eyes readers are given a rare tour of this enigmatic city. The book is a cultural guidebook and historical reference of America's most European city, featuring the work of more than 20 photographers and artists. Chapters highlight food and entertaining, decorating, gardens, landscapes, local traditions, interiors, and architecture. Another one for the bookshelf!

Sunday, October 31

Soup on Sunday: Venetian Crab Soup

Booooo! My newly acquired Venetian mask.

I just returned from a fabulous 4 days in Venice with SFERRA (more to come in a few days). Last night we hosted a Halloween cocktail party and our quests wore masks that I brought home for the occasion. While in Venezia I had an amazing, very complex, sophisticated crab soup that I am trying to recreate. This recipe from Epicurious just might be the ticket.

The truth be told, I should be posting Halloween cocktails today. My husband came up with a few winners for the occasion, including: an Ichabod, a Pumpkin French Martini, a Ghoultini and a Black Widow. They were the hit of the party.

Venetian Crab Soup:

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
Shrimp shells from 2 pounds shrimp (reserve shrimp for another use)
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice
1 (1/2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and chopped
1 large pinch saffron threads, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 California bay leaf or 1 Turkish
2 quart vegetable stock
1 (8-ounce) Yukon Gold potato
1 small celery root (celeriac)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat

Heat oil in a wide 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook onion, celery, and fennel, stirring occasionally, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add shrimp shells and cook, stirring occasionally, until shells turn pink. Stir in tomatoes with their juice. Simmer, breaking up tomatoes slightly with a wooden spoon, 3 minutes, then add ginger, saffron, curry powder, and bay leaf and simmer 5 minutes. Add vegetable stock and boil uncovered 5 minutes.

Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 45 minutes. Discard bay leaf, then purée soup (including shrimp shells) in batches in a blender until finely ground, about 2 minutes per batch (use caution when blending hot liquids). Strain soup through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean pot, discarding solids.

Peel and dice potato. Peel and dice enough celery root to measure 1/2 cup. Add potato and celery root to soup and gently simmer uncovered until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and crabmeat. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 8 as a first course.